The Department of Justice won’t prosecute VA executives accused of intentionally misleading Congress about cost overruns at the new VA hospital in Denver.
The House Committee on Veterans Affairs asked the DOJ for a perjury investigation in 2016, as the committee believed executives were misleading lawmakers to cover up exploding costs for the facility under construction, but the DOJ maintains there is not enough evidence to move forward with prosecution, the Associated Press reports.
Lawmakers wanted the DOJ to look into Glenn Haggstrom and Stella Fiortes, specifically. At the time, Haggstrom served as principal executive director of the Office of Acquisition, Logistics and Construction (OALC) and Fiortes worked as director of the VA’s Office of Construction and Facilities Management.
Haggstrom was well aware the Aurora hospital would balloon in cost, but elected to keep that information from Congress in 2013 and 2014, according to the VA inspector general. The report blamed the cost on mismanagement, inexperience and bad decision-making.
The DOJ’s decision in a May 19 letter to legislators comes as a disappointment to Colorado GOP Rep. Mike Coffman.
“I think that there is clear evidence that they intentionally misled Congress,” he said.
What this decision now means is that not a single person has been fired or charged in connection with cost overruns at the Aurora VA hospital under construction in Colorado. The total costs involved have skyrocketed to $1.7 billion, which is nearly three times as much as the original estimate.
Rather, the executives involved have either retired or been transferred or even demoted, according to the VA.
Haggstrom abruptly left the VA a day after being interviewed under oath by VA officials, while Fiortes is still working at the department. Haggstrom can still apply for federal retirement benefits.
When news of Haggstrom’s retirement broke, former GOP Rep. Jeff Miller, who at the time served as chairman of HVAC, said he believes Haggstrom should have been fired a long time ago.
“What’s most disappointing about this situation, however, is that Haggstrom left on his own terms – with a lifetime pension – even though any reasonable person would conclude that he should have been fired years ago,” Miller said. “VA’s entire construction program is a disaster and has been for years. Every single member of VA’s top leadership is fully aware of the department’s construction problems, yet none made any attempt to fire Haggstrom – a fact that speaks volumes about the department’s commitment to accountability.”
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